Gary Burns has been making feature films since 1997 and has been called “Canada’s king of surreal comedy”. While apt, it does not adequately capture the range of this unique filmmaker. In this extensive interview we talk about Gary’s films in the context of his strong opinions about urban planning, the built environment and modern society. The magical element of his work is that he rivets our attention on important social issues while entertaining us with compelling, quirky characters and stories. He educates and enlightens us in a way where we effortlessly embrace the message.
Highlights of Gary’s career are Kitchen Party in 1997 followed quickly by Suburbanators, and then Waydowntown in 2000. He continued with Cool Money in 2005, the award-winning Radiant City in 2006 and The Future is Now! in 2011 (both with Jim Brown) amongst other projects. Most recently Gary collaborated with his wife Donna Brunsdale on Flexie! All the Same and All Different a biographical film about artist Levine Flexhaug. He is currently working on a new, feature-length drama, Man Running, set in the intriguing world of mountain ultra marathons.
Gary has demonstrated a strong commitment to renewal of the art through the education of the next generation of filmmakers. Most recently, he was the Filmmaker-in-Residence at the University of Calgary for U of C film students. He sits on the Board of Calgary Cinematheque and provides committed, ongoing, tireless support for filmmaking in Calgary, Alberta and Canada.
While he had opportunities to ‘go Hollywood’ early in his career, Burns remained in Calgary so he could continue to make his films the way he wanted to make them, talking about subjects about which he cared. We sat down with Gary at his home in a leafy downtown Calgary neighborhood in early summer. Prime street maintenance season, as it turns out, some of which part of the background soundtrack.
Join us on this episode of The WorkNotWork Show for a remarkable ride through Gary Burns life as storyteller, filmmaker and educator.